It can seem like we have less and less time/energy/money and yet various voices within the Church consistently compete for when and where we should be spending our resources. “We should spend time with other Christians, it will build us up!” “No”, say others, “we should be out in ‘the world’ making an impact”.
Within all this cross-tension of advice, we can often just give up figuring out who and where we should be. We instead default into either our personality-type-path-of-least-resistance or else conform to whatever is prevalent within our community.
David Fitch, in his book ‘Faithful Presence’ offers a thoughtful grid or set of analogies to figure out how to understand the spaces within our lives, not ‘forsaking meeting together’ as those who follow Christ, and yet having a presence in our communities. What is particularly helpful is his suggestion about who is the true host in each of these spaces.
For Fitch, our lives as Christians are lived in three distinct circles - the close circle (as in “near”, not as in “closed off”), the dotted circle, and the half-circle.
The close circle is the fellowship of the church. Here Jesus is the host and at the center of this space. It’s what we would most closely associate with doing church: services, studies and fellowship. Here the intensity of the presence of Christ is like nowhere else.
The dotted circle includes ways in which we bring the church out into the community. Serving together at the soup kitchen or sponsoring the clean-up of a stretch of a road, or running an Alpha series in a local coffee shop. This space is represented as a dotted circle because even though it is defined by a circle of committed followers of Jesus, there is space for neighbours and strangers to enter into what God is doing.
The half-circle where the Christian is a guest. Like the dotted circle, they are bringing God’s presence to the marginalized and hurting. Here we don’t force our way or insist on our way, but come as servants. The question here, as Fitch puts it is.. “not whether Christ is here or not. Rather it is whether his presence will be welcomed”.
Fitch contends that most Christians veer to the ditches of living completely in the close circle (which he calls maintenance mode - just keeping the wheels of the church machine turning) and living completely in the half-circle (which Fitch calls exhaustion mode - ministering without being grounded and connected to the vine through the church) and that we need to rediscover how to both receive and give the gift of God’s “presence” in all three circles if we are to be fruitful as believers.
In what different ways is St. Andrew’s active in these three circles? Where do you feel God is calling us to spend our resources in 2020?
Summary from Christopher Smith “Faithful Presence” Aug 29, 2017 thebridgechurch.net/post/2017/08/29/faithful-presence, Liam Byrnes “Untangling the Circles of our Lives” Sept 16, 2018 liambyrnes.com/untangling-the-circles-of-our-lives/ and David Fitch Faithful Presence